Majority Press

Senate Aging Committee Asks, "Why Are Americans Getting So Many Unwanted Calls?"

Committee Examines Whether the Do Not Call Registry is Still Effective, Whether the Govt Should Do More to Stop Unwanted Calls

        WASHINGTON, DC-  Even though the “Do Not Call Registry,” which has been in existence for nearly a decade, is supposed to help prevent unwanted calls, far too many Americans are frustrated by the large number of unwanted telephone calls they receive each day. Advances in technology, such as robocalls, caller ID spoofing, and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are making it easier for scammers to reach potential victims.  This was the topic of a hearing today of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, chaired by Senator Susan Collins.

        The Senate Special Committee on Aging’s hearing titled, “Ringing Off the Hook: Examining the Proliferation of Unwanted Calls” examined why so many individuals who have signed up for the “Do Not Call Registry” still receive unwanted calls, many of which are robocalls. 

        Among today’s witnesses was Linda Blase, a small business owner from Dallas, Texas, who is frustrated and overwhelmed by unwanted robo and spoofed calls that she receives.  Over the course of a month, Ms. Blase kept a log of the “junk” calls she received and said she received 74 calls, 62 of which were robocalls.  She has been trying for years to stop the calls through complaints to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), complaints to the Consumer’s Union, and by registering for the Do Not Call Registry.  Yet unwanted calls have not only continued, but have increased. 

        Senator Collins said, “A large part of the problem of unwanted calls traces to the fact that the regulatory framework behind the Do Not Call list has been rendered ineffective by advances in technology.”  She explained that spoofing, which enables callers to disguise a Caller ID, is easy and inexpensive.  Spoofing is a tool used regularly by scammers to make their victims believe they are calling from the IRS, or local law enforcement, for example.

        During the hearing, a member of the Senator’s staff displayed how easy spoofing technology is by calling the Senator’s cell phone and disguising the caller ID to make it appear that the calls had come from the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Justice, when in fact, the calls had come from across the room using a free IPhone app.

            Upon questioning from Senator Collins, Professor Henning Schulzrinne of Columbia University, who also testified at today’s hearing, acknowledged that the technology currently exists to enable phone carriers to block these unwanted calls.

            Senator Collins has joined the Committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Claire McCaskill in cosponsoring legislation that would provide more authority to the FCC to combat Caller ID spoofing and strengthen penalties for those who generate these calls.

            Additional witnesses included Lois Greisman, Associate Director, Division of Marketing Practices, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C.; and Joe Dandurand, Deputy Attorney General, State of Missouri, Jefferson City, Missouri.